Oh, hello. Sorry, I didn’t see you standing over there. Not many people come through any more. Excuse me? The large table over there, with the tarp? The dusty one? No, no, there’s not much under there. I can pull it off if you like. It’s just a bunch of outrage; it used to be pretty sharp and urgent. Now…

It’s surprising how quickly it wears down. You ding the corners a couple times and it begins to look like shit. Then time passes, the glue fails, and it collapses into a sad pile of misplaced hopes and futile intentions. I have some notes somewhere, I could explain it to you, but I think the process would just depress me more. This seems irrational, I know, but even talking seems to make the remnants a little more worn.

Yeah, monologues, that is what we are reduced to. You want outrage? How about the fact that another arts organization has been shunted off the WTC site. Guess where it got covered? In the Times arts section. I didn’t see the print edition; I hope it fell beneath a review of Blades of Glory.

It’s not a badly written piece, and it covers all the high points, in that dry, house style, where you wonder if they see it as highly restrained commentary that the insightful will read ‘correctly’, or if they are just obtuse. Around here, we go in for a bit more muckraking, so here’s a fresh take on the steps to date:

Back in the day, an architect (Daniel Libeskind) came up with a ‘master plan’ the elements of which were expected to guide the long term planning of the WTC site. Though his actual building designs were pretty thoroughly rejected (and some even contest that his plan should have been chosen in the first place), every mouthpiece from Larry Silverstein to George Pataki reiterated how crucial is was to maintain the integrity of said plan, even though it appeared that every design decision made was contradicting the images people pretty readily embraced as the ‘idea’. If pressed, one might describe this plan as a memorial bounded by a L-shaped gathering of towers and cultural venues. Oh, and tower that was 1,776 feet high, a ‘symbolic gesture.’

Well, we still have all that, if one can believes that funding for a $700 million theater can be found, and if a knick knack kiosk for the Memorial constitutes a cultural venue. We certainly got the spec office space, and the bonus of a big mall. How did it all do down? After much jockeying and hand-wringing, four venues were announced (oh, a couple years ago): The Drawing Center, the Signature Theater, the Joyce (dance), and something called the International Freedom and Patriotism Conclave (or words to that effect). Architects were selected, and design efforts commenced, though no one was given a budget, or told how things would be funded, or even when they could expect occupancy.

The new kids on the block, Snohetta, were up first (Frank Ghery, a tricky old sot when it comes to commissions like this, still hasn’t offered a sketch). Thanks to a poorly chosen image of an exhibit for the first renderings, complaints from the architect who is buying a whole block of Park Avenue on the back of his fees from a nearby project, and cursory research into the kinds of shows the Drawing Center has mounted in the past, things went very south very quickly. Loyalty pledges were passed around, and the Drawing Center turned up their noses, right quick. Not having a lot of old skool patronage to back them up, they were pretty shown the door with the kind of alacrity reserved for ugly post-drunk-goggle hookups where everyone is wondering why those two got together.

Next up was the Freedom Center, headed by one of the preeminent fund raisers for President Bush a couple years back. Funnily enough, a center devoted to ‘freedom’ refused to sign at the dotted line. And they didn’t even play the irony card that hard. Snohetta was given the door prize (quite literally — they get to design the door to a below grade ‘visitors center’).

Meanwhile, Ghery toiled in relative silence, cocooned by the fact that his site and venues were decidedly less threatening, even though the programmatic requirements (which included stacking something like five theaters servicing two distinct tenants from a compressed footprint that was itself perched upon a sizable portion of the subterranean support areas of the Freedom Tower) had everyone shaking their head since the RFP.

Last week, everyone fessed up to the impossibility of this scenario, and the Signature Theater was shunted off site to the Fiterman Hall complex — a building that has sat for nearly six years in unattractive and potentially dangerous netting, having been partially destroyed by the collapse of WTC7. It has been undeveloped since the CUNY — which owns the building — was self-insured, and having just spent over $100 million developing it as a state of the art facility intended to shore up their downtown presence (the building hadn’t even opened when the attacks occurred), was loath to eat a eight to nine figure clean up bill and then still have to start the renovation process all over again. So yeah, that’s where the Signature is going. Larry will be happy since it means he now has at least the thin hope that one sites facing his Jeff Koons festooned drivelet for the rebuilt 7WTC won’t be a construction site in, say, eight to ten years.

We also get the parenthetical note that the Drawing Center will be moving to the South Street Seaport (though not Pier 17, as some particularly incisive commentators have argued), though, like everything in the article, it was qualified with uncertainties about funding, timing, you know, actual agreements. Ghery, who likely never got to the stage where he mushes around pencil shavings and calls it design, was happy to roll with the change order. Construction on the newly denuded Joyce can’t even start until 2011, meaning there’s plenty of room for progress invoices until Debra Burlingame finds out about the work of, say, Bill T. Jones.

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